QFS News Release
16 August 2001

Freshwater Aquaculture- Value Adding for Irrigators

COTTON and sugarcane farmers might consider aquaculture as a new addition to complement farm irrigation programs if freshwater aquaculture trials on the Darling Downs and in North Queensland prove successful.

Department of Primary Industries fisheries biologist, Dr Adrian Collins, Bribie Island, said there were good results being obtained in a research program investigating the potential of integrating native freshwater fish production with irrigated agriculture.

Dr Collins, from the DPI’s innovation arm, the Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences, said that demands for the efficient and productive use of water in agriculture were the driving force behind the developed of integrated or multiple water use farming practices.

He said cotton and aquaculture were proved as complementary crops in trials on Paul McVeigh’s Loch Eaton Darling Downs property where silver perch grown in water that was then used for irrigation were shown to be free of any pesticides. Dr Collins said this result mirrors that of the American catfish industry where 65 percent of all production occurs in areas of intensive cotton, rice and soybean production.

"The results are of vital importance to cotton and cane farmers using irrigation. Queensland irrigators use 65 percent of the 3.2 million megalitres of water consumed annually in the state. If aquaculture is to expand in Queensland it will need to access this water. Aquaculture can provide the opportunity for producers to not only maintain their existing cotton or cane enterprises, but to also diversify production by establishing facilities on unused or unsuitable land."

"There is potential for producers to diversify into aquaculture without major changes to their farm businesses. If five percent of the ring tanks in the Darling Downs alone were used for aquaculture, it could potentially double the size of native freshwater fish production in Australia." Dr Collins said.

He said that the DPI’s Walkamin Freshwater Fisheries Aquaculture Centre would assist in establishing a study site in North Queensland where a cane and barramundi producer is looking to integrate his business by using effluent water from fish ponds to irrigate his cane crop.

"We recognise that not all farms will be suitable candidates for integrated aquaculture through inappropriately located infrastructure or unfavourable farm layouts."

"However risk analysis criteria will be developed to assist producers to determine whether individual farms can practice integrated aquaculture and provide significant economic returns, conserve water and yield environmental benefits." Dr Collins said

He said a CD Rom software program was to be produced to assist farmers to decide whether aquaculture would enhance their operation or not.

Dr Collins said that the project was seeking to identify where aquaculture irrigation linked production was appropriate, develop economic modelling packages, implement risk management quality assurance programs, and conduct market assessment and product development activities.

Further Information: Adrian Collins 07 3400 2000. Public Affairs Officer: Mark Dawson 07 5430 4951, mob 0428 986 231
Department of Primary Industries Public Affairs
PO Box 5165 Sunshine Coast Mail Centre 4560. Ph 07 5430 4911 Fax 07 5430 4994
DPI Call Centre 8am-6pm weekdays on local call 13 25 23